Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole
Okay, so action director Zack Snyder (Watchmen, 300) didn’t want to rest on his laurels. He thought, rightly, “Life’s too short. I’ve got to make me a kid’s film about owls”.
I mulled the idea over. I trusted Snyder’s vision. It wasn’t a bad one, as owl-related epiphanies go. From the moment I saw that furry little owl face peeking out from under its helmet (of an unspecified metal but probably iron, owls probably dig iron) in the film posters, I was on tenterhooks. Owls! Helmets! Make it happen for me, Zack!
I wasn’t getting all unnecessary, the way some people do if you roll up all the cats on the internet into a big ball and chuck it in their squeeing hypo-allergenic faces. Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole 3D is, after all, based on loosely on a trilogy of novels by Kathryn Lasky. Publishing moguls being slightly less sharksome than studio moguls, there was a chance this film might actually have some kind of storyline. If not, at least I could guarantee myself a glorious feathery orgy of owls, helmets and spurious 3D-lovin’ flight’n’fight scenes. Just to make sure, I thought pan-dimensional and I thought big – and went to see Legend of the Guardians 3D at the IMAX. Big.
Soren is a young owl who is stolen from his nest when he and his less talented older brother are on their first branching (mini-flying) spree. They have been kidnapped by scouts from an Evil Owl empire, which is run by the gruesome, fascistic Metalbeak and his elegantly evil consort Nyra (Helen Mirren. What with Red Mirren is really getting around at the moment – and a leading role as malevolent owl showcases her many talents to perfection). Soren has always believed in the existence of the quasi-legendary Guardians of Ga’Hoole. I’m not entirely sure what Ga’Hoole is, but I’m given to believe it’s a big tree in the middle of the sea. Will the Guardians of Ga’Hoole help Soren defeat the Evil Owl empire? It seems likely. They’ve learned to survive undetected in a big tree in the middle of the ocean – my guess is they can do anything.
Now, then, is the time for journeys, quests, the learning of wholesome messages and epic battle scenes worthy of Lord of the Rings that will force your heart into your mouth even with the PG-rated absence of blood and death. The simple overall premise is given depth by endearing characterisation and messages that are wholesome rather than saccharine. You don’t have to be good-looking or strong and powerful. To succeed as an owl, you have to trust to your sense of justice and purpose and not be swayed by other owls just because they’re good-looking or strong and powerful. You don’t have to be the centre of attention – even owls working behind the scenes can make a difference to the battle ahead. You can’t take things for granted, you don’t get anything worth having without trying at least a little bit and you have to always follow your gizzard. Wise words. Also, don’t eat other owls’ pellets, that’s disgusting and uncivilised. Take heed!
Along with an engaging storyline and moments where you genuinely won’t know what happens next, the film is a tiny treasure box of unexpected visual and worldbuilding details worthy of a Jim Henson movie like Labyrinth or The Dark Crystal (Jim Henson fans take note: The Power of the Dark Crystal is hitting the big screen in 2011). The owls’ armour is cleverly envisioned, as are the lesser details of an owlish existence, and the hypnotic moonblinking trance that non-evil owls are subjected to is something to be wary of, indeed.
There are only a few minus points with Legend of the Guardians. Firstly, it’s somewhat painful to hear an owl speaking exposition-heavy dialogue. Don’t these owls realise they’re not in Inception? Secondly, just because you’ve just learned to fly, it doesn’t mean you automatically have to swoop out of a grey cloud into a gorgeous rose-drenched sunset when it was patently an airy mid-afternoon five minutes ago. Lastly, it seems that even in an avian world, all evil owls speak with British accents. Et tu, owls.
Legend of the Guardians has received pretty unanimously solid reviews, and rightly so. It’s got great looks, epic visuals and genuine heart. Within minutes, you’ll accept that liquid-eyed owls are destined to replace kittens on the internet, and that all owls would, if they could, speak with richly-timbred Australian accents.
Let’s take a checklist: Owls. Helmets that are probably but not necessarily made of iron, but have definitely been smelted by owls because you see them doing it. Imax. 3D.
Legend of the Guardians is like 300 and Lord of the Rings but with beaks. Don’t just take our word for it – take Zack Snyder’s.
Lastly, there is a notable lack of films about owls nowadays, possibly because canny film producers have realised that owls are too poor to go to the movies. To celebrate a potential new wave of owl cinema we’ve created a series of owl-related pullquotes, dismissing the generic superlatives you usually get in these things, and indeed completely evading the notion of what a pullquote actually is. Our defence? We’re doing it for that silent majority, the owls. We like to think they’ll appreciate it.
Guardians of Legend pullquotes – now with added owl
“A cascading triumph of owls with helmets” – Bestforfilm.com
“Owl upon helmeted owl BURSTS from the silver screen” – Bestforfilm.com
“Not an American owl in sight! Well, just one, but it’s really tiny” – Bestforfilm.com